Beautiful Planet: Earth Institute Photos from Around the Globe

April 20, 2020

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. To celebrate, Columbia University is sharing images of places and projects around the world that highlight our planet’s incredible beauty. From now till April 22nd, we want to see your #ColumbiaBeautifulPlanet images. Share them and use the hashtag for a chance to see your photo on Columbia’s social media.

Earth Institute experts work across the globe to solve mysteries about how our planet works, and to implement sustainable solutions to real-world problems. Below, a small selection of the gorgeous photos they’ve taken during field research.

A photograph taken by Gary Comer, founder of Land’s End, off the coast of Greenland in 2004. His trips to the Arctic starting in the late 90s inspired and led him to be deeply interested in global warming and what we can do to mitigate it. He befriended the late Wallace Broecker and was a major backer of climate research at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

 

Shepherds in Uruguay, outside of Montevideo. IRI has been working with the country’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries to ‘climate-proof’ its vital agriculture sector, which is vulnerable to droughts and flooding. Photo credit: Francesco Fiondella, International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI)

 

The sun sets over Lake Awasa in Ethiopia, an area close to the National Meteorological Agency's office in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Region (SNNPR). This meteorological station is one that several IRI researchers have visited and worked with over the last few years. The region is very important to the country agriculturally, and produces about 45 percent of the country's coffee, which is a focus under IRI’s ACToday project. The SNNPR meteorological office is responsible for providing a wide range of forecasts for a very diverse geographical region, and Tufa Dinku's team at IRI has been working with climate scientists there to improve the accuracy, capacity and application of climate information within the meteorological service. Photo credit: Jacquelyn Turner, International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI)

 

Mary Anyango stands in front of her bean farm in the village of Sauri in western Kenya. Normally she grows maize here, but by rotating crops, beans help replenish lost nitrogen in the soil. She participated in the Earth Institute’s Millennium Villages project, which was designed in part to help rural farmers increase their agricultural outputs. Photo credit: Kyu Lee, Earth Institute

 

Beryllium sampling near threshold lakes along the Greenland ice sheet, July 2016. The Arctic system is undergoing profound change. Loss of summer sea ice cover brings uncertainty about how an ice-free Arctic Ocean might affect precipitation, which will affect land ice, especially the Greenland ice sheet. The Snow on Ice project focuses on the interconnectivity of changing sea ice, climate and the Greenland ice sheet. Samples are collected from rocks deposited by glaciers for exposure dating to determine the age of ice sheet retreat. Photo credit: Margie Turrin, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

 

Threshold lakes along the Greenland ice sheet, July 2016. The Arctic system is undergoing profound change. Loss of summer sea ice cover brings uncertainty about how an ice-free Arctic Ocean might affect precipitation, which will affect land ice, especially the Greenland ice sheet. The Snow on Ice project focuses on the interconnectivity of changing sea ice, climate and the Greenland ice sheet. Samples are collected from rocks deposited by glaciers for exposure dating to determine the age of ice sheet retreat. Photo credit: Margie Turrin, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

 

A beautiful view of the ocean from the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI). The Sabin Center for Climate Change Law conducts legal research and implements reforms with the University of South Pacific concerning how RMI, as a major ship registry, can force reductions in ship emissions. Photo credit: Romany Webb, Sabin Center for Climate Change Law

 

Nomadic herdsmen bring their camels to a watering hole in eastern Kenya, close to the Somali border. People in the region participated in an Earth Institute project looking to understand how to foster economic development in one of the harshest and driest environments in sub-Saharan Africa. Photo credit: Kyu Lee, Earth Institute

 

Drone photo by Jonathan Kingslake and Elizabeth Case in Juneau, Alaska, at the site of the Juneau Icefield Research Project (@juneauicefieldresearchproject)

 

Multi-year monitoring on the 2.5-acre green roof atop a U.S. Postal Service facility in midtown Manhattan has helped to reveal and define its ability to capture storm water and reduce temperature. Photo credit: Robert Elliott, Urban Design Lab

 

A bat soars on the volcanic Indian Ocean island of Anjouan, where scientists investigate a formation of quartzite, a rock apparently formed on a far-off continent. Its presence here defies conventional scientific theory. The island is part of the Comoros, a small, poor nation archipelago whose agricultural economy springs directly from its geologic history. Photo credit: Kevin Krajick, Earth Institute

 

A rogue penguin being chased off an airfield runway by a group of firemen, captured by a researcher studying how rocks alter and erode in one of the most extreme environments on the planet—Antarctica. The project used real-time monitoring of rock breakdown to measure erosion rates in a hyper-arid, sub-zero environment. Photo credit: Jen Lamp, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

 

Looking south over the mining town of Casapalca in central Peru. Mining accounts for most of Peru’s exports, and this town’s economy relies on the mine. The mine and refinery is more than a century old, yet is known for poor working conditions and deadly conflict. The Rimac River passes through the town with heavy metal contamination that surpasses Peruvian legal limits. Columbia Water Center recently completed a three-year project, sponsored by Norges Bank Investment Management, to develop a modeling platform to quantitatively assess mining-related water and environmental risks and their financial implications. Photo credit: Lauren Butler, Columbia Water Center

 

GEOTRACES samples different trace elements in the ocean waters that can be an asset and a liability in the marine system, providing either essential nutrients for biologic productivity, or toxic inputs to a rapidly warming system. Arctic GEOTRACES focuses on the smallest and shallowest of the world’s oceans and the one most under siege from climate change. Sampling close to an open edge can mean a quick lowering to the ice. Photo credit: Tim Kenna, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

 

Honduras, May 2015. The IRI’s financial instruments sector team works with farmers around the world to design agriculture insurance that’s useful and relevant to farmers’ needs. Team members use games to inform their research because they create a relaxed atmosphere in which farmers feel comfortable intervening and actively participating. This helps give a voice to individuals who are not always used to being consulted. Games can also be the best way to uncover farmers’ true-to-life preferences about insurance. Photo credit: Elisabeth Gawthrop, International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI)

 

At the top of a high pass, a student takes in his first view of the area around Chile's Quizapu’s volcano. Quizapu is the source of some of South America’s biggest modern eruptions; volcanologists aim to map its lava flows in detail, to help understand its inner workings, and the hazards it poses. They trekked for eight days on foot and horseback to carry out the mission. To the left, craters left by prehistoric explosions. To the right, the 12,970-foot Descabezado Grande volcano. Photo credit: Kevin Krajick, Earth Institute

 

The summer season over the Greenland ice sheet is characterized by surface melting, creating a texture of patterns with supraglacial lakes and streams, crevasses and canyons. Over the past decades, melting has been increasing in Greenland, hence increasing its contribution to sea level rise. In this project, we specifically study how meltwater drains and how albedo (e.g., how ‘bright’ the surface is) modulates melting. Photo credit: Marco Tedesco, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

 

The island of Puerto Rico, which suffered the impacts of Hurricane Maria in 2017. Ama Francis, climate law fellow at the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, works on developing legal solutions to disaster displacement and climate migration, with a focus on small island nations and least developed countries. She recently participated in the Clinton Global Initiative Action Network post-disaster recovery conference. Photo credit: Ama Francis, Sabin Center for Climate Change Law

 

The Rosetta project is focused on the Ross ice shelf in Antarctica. This shelf plays a critical role in stabilizing the Antarctic ice sheet, buttressing the ice that is constantly moving over the land surface. Studying how the ice, ocean and underlying land interact will inform us of potential change in the ice shelf from projected climate change. The IcePod instrument, shown along the front of the shelf, is a critical instrument in completing this project. Photo credit: Winnie Chu, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

 

Working at 11,000 feet in the Sierras of California, Aaron Putnam, an adjunct professor at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and colleagues Adam Hudson and Ben Hatchett calibrate the location of a boulder along a glacial moraine. By measuring an isotope in rocks along the moraine, they hope to build a timeline of the glacier’s retreat, and get a better understanding of how climate affects snowfall and water supply in the region. No power tools are allowed in the wilderness area around Baboon Lakes in the Sierras of eastern California, so researchers chisel out rock samples by hand. Chipped off of boulders along a glacial moraine, the rocks will give scientists a timeline of the glacier’s retreat, and a way to measure the impact of climate changes on snowfall and water supply. Photo credit: David Funkhouser, Earth Institute

 

Arc magmatism like that in the Aleutian Islands is the most important process that generates the new crust that makes up Earth's continents. Understanding the genesis of plutonic rocks—those that crystallized from slowly-cooling magma—is the key to knowing more about continental crust formation. The Aleutian arc is a unique place to carry out such research because of the extensive exposures of plutonic rocks, perhaps more than any other such island arc on Earth. Researchers Peter Kelemen, Steven Goldstein, and Merry Cai of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Matthew Rioux of the University of California (UC), Santa Barbara, study central Aleutian plutons and lavas to answer long standing questions about the origins of Earth's continental crust.

 

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Marie DeNoia Aronsohn
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